Leave the Leaves! (Art v.s. Graffiti)


Here’s the e-mail I sent to Roanoke’s city Manager.  Why don’t you contact her too?

Darlene L. Burcham, City Manager
215 Church Avenue, S.W.
Noel C. Taylor Municipal Building
Room 364
Roanoke, VA 24011
 Phone Number
(540) 853-2333
Fax Number
(540) 853-1138
E-mail Address
Office Hours
7:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., Monday – Friday

Dear Ms. Burcham,

I love how Roanoke artist  Elaine Fleck  enhanced the leaf imprints in the concrete sidewalk in front of the house she and her husband own at  535 Mountain Avenue, SW, Roanoke.

I was saddened to learn that you were of the opinion that because “the sidewalk is a public right of way, and despite the appearance, the city cannot allow individuals to deface that right of way. To allow in this instance would open up the opportunity for others to do the same, and who is to say that the next effort would not be offensive. …We will be taking steps to remove just as we did the crosswalk in [the]r neighborhood which others thought was attractive too.”

I’ve attached  digital photographs of  her sidewalk,  as well as the photo from the City’s web site of graffiti.

The Roanoke City Code Graffiti ordinance 21:25 states:

Willful damage to or defacement of public or privatefacilities


(a) Graffiti defined. Graffiti means the unauthorized application of any writing, painting, drawing, etching, scratching or marking of an inscription, work, figure or design of any type on any public buildings, facilities and personal property or any private buildings, facilities and personal property.

When I looked up the terms in a legal dictionary online, I found no entries. In common English usage, the definition of damage is “to harm or injure property or a person, resulting in loss of value or the impairment of usefulness.” The definition of deface is “to mar or spoil the appearance or surface of; disfigure; or to impair the usefulness, value, or influence of.

Elaine’s art doesn’t seem to meet these definitions. It seems the way to distinguish art from grafitti is the issue of permission. My question would be, “Can the city establish a permission process, similar to Portland, Oregon, that allows neighborhoods to beautify their surroundings.”

Since the Arts Commission is to ” advise and assist City Council on matters relating to the advancement of the arts and humanities within the city” perhaps they could take it up and have City Council address this matter before  “take steps to removet” something that makes Roanoke so much more pleasant a place.

For more information on Portland, see  City Repair’s site.

Your Parks and Recreation Director, Steve Buschor, attended a presentation sponsored by the Roanoke Permaculture Association and the Roanoke Natural Foods Co-op on  April 22 by Toby Hemenway, who is on the Board for this project.  Mr. Buschor might be able to  fill you in.

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2 Responses to “Leave the Leaves! (Art v.s. Graffiti)”

  1. Leave the leaves, Part II: Does Roanoke Really Want Public Art | The Writing Corner Says:

    […] Wellington on Politics and Culture « Leave the Leaves! (Art v.s. Graffiti) Entry for August 31, 2005 […]

  2. Leave the Leaves, Part 3: Who’s D’ Boss? | The Writing Corner Says:

    […] Thanks, too, to Diane for information on The Wooster Collective:  A Celebration of Street Art. This is an  international showcase of urban/street art with daily updates. Not only visual art, but music (by podcast).  You can even  download art as wallpaper for your mobile phone  with the proceeds going to support Keep A Child Alive, which provides anti-retrovirus drugs to children and parents suffering from HIV/AIDS in poor countries. My other  Leave the Leaves”  entries: 8/30/05–Does Roanoke Really Want Public  Art  8/29/05–Art v.s. Graffiti […]

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